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Morgan leads England to victory over Sri Lanka in rain-hit second ODI

DAMBULLA (Agencies): The monsoon rains hammered down on Dambulla for the second successive match but did not arrive early enough to save Sri Lanka, as England took the lead in this one-day series through an impressive and hostile performance from the bowlers.

After Wednesday’s opening washout of just 15 overs, at least a result was achieved this time. Eoin Morgan’s tourists, having posted 278 for nine with the bat through the captain’s controlled 92, reduced the hosts to 140 for five from 29 overs when the skies opened at 3.45pm for a 31-run victory via Duckworth-Lewis-Stern.

If that earlier total fell short of expectations, thanks to Lasith Malinga shredding the lower order through figures of five for 44, then the response was emphatic. Chris Woakes struck three times with the new ball, while Olly Stone, shone on his first genuine outing with a burst that sent the batsmen hopping, cracked splices and returned his first wicket.

Though the early removals of Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal and Dasun Shanaka from Woakes were fine reward for a bowler who missed the white-ball summer through injury – and extracted impressive movement from a slow pitch – the most self-effacing England player will not mind his Warwickshire colleague receiving some attention here.

England have long desired a nasty quick to augment their one-day attack and Stone, offered his chance in the squad due to Liam Plunkett’s wedding clash, could well fit the bill. His first ball, after Woakes had Tharanga caught behind in his opening over, was a beauty, beating Niroshan Dickwella with an 87mph delivery that fizzed past the edge.

The start of his second went one better, as a brutish rising ball had Dickwella gloving the simplest of catches to Jos Buttler from in front of his face. Speeds touching 90mph are one thing, but the discomfort induced by the 25 year old, both with this delivery and subsequently, demonstrate why he could yet be a World Cup wildcard.

Once the two Bears had flattened the Sri Lankan top order, and with the storm clouds brewing, it was a case of ensuring 20 overs to guarantee a result. Morgan’s spinners hurried to make it so, with Liam Dawson claiming the fifth wicket when Kusal Perera slapped a long-hop to Jason Roy at midwicket. While a late salvo from the muscular Thisara Perera produced three sixes in an unbeaten 44, the hosts were long gone.

This second of five matches began under blue skies, as Chandimal won the toss and was rewarded by Malinga’s removal of Roy for a fourth-ball duck. Jonny Bairstow was out of sorts for 26 from 40 balls, before Thisara rattled his stumps in the 14th over, but did pass 1,000 ODI runs for the year – and 2,000 in his career – along the way.

Joe Root was the aggressor early on, emerging with a flurry of crisp fours – including three successively off Malinga – before throttling back once his fellow Yorkshireman departed. He and Morgan put on a steady 68 for the fourth wicket in 15 overs, with just one shaky piece of running along the way.

England’s Test captain went on to make 71 and set a national record, with previous unbeaten scores of 113, 100 and 25 making it 309 runs between one-day dismissals – eight more than Graeme Hick back in 1999 – before being foxed by the part-time spin of Dhananjaya de Silva. Akila Dananjaya, who earlier dropped him on 48, held on at cover. Morgan was delivering a typically impish hand at the other end, playing the percentages throughout but still striking at over 100 thanks to 11 fours and two sixes.

A lofted four took the total past 200 but having lost Ben Stokes, the all-rounder slicing a drive to backward point off Dananjaya on 15, the captain became the first of Malinga’s four-wicket burst. He may be 35, sporting a bit of extra timber and has lost a yard of pace, but Sri Lanka’s rubber-armed slinger remains the grand old duke of yorkers. It was a smart slower ball that teased Morgan into a return catch, before a hat-trick opportunity presented itself by castling Moeen Ali first ball through another.

Woakes survived – Malinga let a beamer slip out – but, after Buttler missed a Nuwan Pradeep’s full toss, became the first of two more in the 47th over, trapped lbw. The Hawkeye projection looked curiously straighter than with the naked eye but there was little doubt about Dawson’s departure, bowled neck and crop to give Malinga his first international five-wicket haul since 2014.

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